Petersham

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Petersham Memorial Library (Worcester County)
Petersham 1
Interior plaque photos courtesy of Petersham Memorial Library staff

PetershamLocation: 23 Common Street, Petersham
Coordinates: 42°29’21.4″N 72°11’12.9″W
Date dedicated: August 3, 1889
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Stone, Carpenter & Willson, architects; Dodge Brothers of Somerville, contractors
Number of names: 129 who served in he Civil War and 77 who served in the Revolution

The Memorial Library in Petersham was funded largely through the fundraising efforts of Capt. John G. Mudge, a prominent resident of that town. During the war, he was a captain in the 53rd Massachusetts Infantry which saw action during the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. After the war, he served as both a state representative and state senator. When a committee gathered in Petersham to commence fundraising for a new library, it was Capt. Mudge who had the idea to declare the building a memorial to the Petersham who fought in the Civil War and the Revolution (see plaque photos below).[1]

A letter written by Capt. Mudge after one of the assaults on Port Hudson was later published in a post-war collection of Stories of Our Soldiers. He tells of the tragic advance of their brigade, which included three Massachusetts units, on a “bright, beautiful Sunday morn.” The 53rd Massachusetts, after rushing to within about fifty feet of the Confederate entrenchments, was finally ordered over the parapet and into the enemy’s works by General Halbert Paine, their division commander. Mudge, in command of Company F, noted that his company rose up and “charged up the parapet until nearly every man who reached the brow of the hill was either killed or wounded…Col. Kimball…seeing us fall hack ordered me again to charge. I replied that I had not a man standing to make a charge. Oh, what a sad sight and a painful time I had in dragging out the wounded of my brave company. Never can I think of that sad scene and he happy.”[2]

Out of 34 men in Capt. Mudge’s company, 22 were killed, wounded, or missing. These events seem distant and abstract to us now but were fresh in the minds of those who labored to create these memorials.

The architectural firm chosen by the committee, Stone, Carpenter & Willson, was based in Providence and was one of the most prominent in Rhode Island. They designed several large buildings in Providence and on the campus of Brown University including Providence Union Station, the Union Trust Building and the Ladd Observatory. They also renovated many well-known historic houses in downtown Providence. Petersham’s Memorial Library was dedicated August 3, 1889.[3]

Interior plaque photos courtesy of Petersham Memorial Library staff (click to enlarge):

[1] Springfield Republican, July 4, 1890
[2] Charles Carleton Coffin, Stories of Our Soldiers: War Reminiscences, (Boston: Journal Newspaper Co., 1893), volume 1, 184
[3] Worcester Daily Spy, Aug 06, 1889

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